by Christina Karvounis
Imagine: you are a fourth grader placed in a group of four to six peers. Your goal is to integrate science, technology, engineering, art, math and sheer perseverance to design a solution to a structural challenge.
You are given four building materials: playing cards, glue, adhesive tape and wood. Your structure must not weigh more than 75 grams, but must be able to support the weight of ten full pounds. While your structure supports the ten pounds, you and your group will perform a skit in eight minutes that is related to the structure, integrating two special creative interludes to demonstrate your group’s spirit. All done without any adult interference other than to answer basic questions and provide a safe space to build. This is DESTINATION IMAGINATION (DI).
Destination Imagination is impossible to accurately describe to those who have never experienced it. This was BFS’s second year competing, and my first year as a coach. The Brooklyn Structure Showcase, which took place on May 2, 2015 at Poly Prep Lower School in Park Slope, welcomed fourth grade students from five Brooklyn independent schools: Brooklyn Heights Montessori, Packer Collegiate, Berkeley Carroll, Poly Prep and BFS. The other BFS coaches were Kate Minear, Hyo Kim, Elif Espinola-Engin and Laurice Hwang.
The journey to the competition began back in January with organizing several individual school teams of no more than seven members, signing Interference Contracts (no adult assistance allowed!), and parsing challenge directions.
The weeks wore on. DI students met weekly with their team for 90 minutes to write scenes to skits, practice Instant Challenges (Here are 2 paperclips, a straw, five sheets of paper and a paper cup. Build a bridge that can bear four ping pong balls! GO!). Next, build and test the structure and manage the organization of materials.
That was the easy part. The real challenge lay in collaboration. Coaches guided students on communication, sharing and shifting ideas, accepting ideas, letting go of others, and then coming to consensus as a group on how to best proceed. This was a multimodal, skill-layered social experience for our fourth graders: they were simultaneously negotiating skill sets with their contribution to the group with their communication skills. In a word:remarkable.
BFS students demonstrated incredible growth both individually and as a group over the course of the DI experience. On May 2, Showcase Day, BFS students took to the stage with grace and confidence. They tested their structures and removed parts according to the rules. They supported one another in the audience with waves, cheers and smiles. They moved through the experience together as companions on a journey rather than competitors on a platform. This was especially evident when the results were announced: BFS students sat together as one group and sincerely cheered each other on as team placements were announced, even those from other schools.
The day was clearly much more about the learning and excitement than how each team fared on a score sheet.The day was a bright reminder of how the layers of learning unfolding daily in our school truly blend to educate the whole person. Congratulations to our DI Fourth Grade Students!
Results for the BFS Teams:
THE ASTRONOMY CHEMISTRY COMEDY CATS — second place overall
CABIJ — third place overall
CT JEEP — best overall team choice elements (2 creative elements in the skit)